Terry Grimley looks forward to the return of dance group DV8 to the region...
When contemporary dance pacesetters DV8 return to Warwick Arts Centre with their first new touring show for five years, it's no surprise to see the "sold-out" signs going up.
But artistic director Lloyd Newson is keen to dispel any impression that the company has been taking it easy since the turn of the millennium.
"People say Just for Show is our first new show for five years, but actually what happened was we did the last show, Cost of Living, in only three places - Sydney, Hong- Kong and London - the first time round.
"Then I had a year's sabbatical and at that time I wanted to make a film of Cost of Living. I had to raise the money and we totally rewrote it, which took a good eight months by the time we worked it out. The film has done quite well, but people who have seen both the live show and film say they're two different pieces.
"Then we did a site-specific piece for Tate Modern and a re-tour of Cost of Living. So I've been exhausted for at least least four years, but I suppose you could say this is the first new stage production since then."
Part of the reason for the sabbatical was Newson's need for a hip replacement, which he reveals was carried out in Birmingham's Nuffield Hospital. In fact, he's the proud owner of what is known as a Birmingham hip: "Apparently they've got incredible engineers up there who are responsible for this piece of titanum in my hip".
The theme of Just for Show is the way people present themselves in the best possible light, from minor falsehoods to plastic surgery (with uncanny timing, a report published yesterday revealed that a quarter of teenage boys would consider surgery to achieve celebrity looks).
"Quentin Crisp said we spend our lives trying to reconcile our good opinion of ourselves with how others feel about us," says Newson.
"It's about illusion, delusion, about what you see and what is real. In this piece two women do a whole scene about make-up - putting on gloss, covering over cracks.
"There's this notion of trying to be and look like other people. If you can't be outstandingly the best, at least you can be as like everyone else as possible."
One of the threads is the notion of the spin-doctor, starting with the Saatchis and notoriously picked up by Labour, whose role is to make something that's not good seem good.
"I've started noticing how often we all, including myself, 'spin' ourselves. For myself, I'm amazed at how often I slip in a little selfpromoting lie. The people who do most spinning are most afraid of the emptiness underneath.
"It's been said that nowadays it's more important to look good than to be good. So a couple like the Beckhams have to pretend to be perfect when they're not. Or there's the clubber whose body is deteriorating but is afraid to show it.
"I was also thinking about how people use reviews, picking out the good bits. So 'Normally they're brilliant but this time they were terrible' becomes 'Brilliant-Birmingham Post'..."
Word-play is another part of the show's mix.
"I've always had, I think, a healthy relationship with text. If I can express something with movement I will, but if I can't see a way of doing that I'll use words. There's a lot of playful text in this show."
Just for Show also breaks some new technological ground for the company.
"We have images on stage that look like holograms, so the dancers can dance with virtual images and dance through them. The reason I got excited by this was there were a lot of things in my life where I was thinking about what was real and what isn't.
"Even just researching it has taken two years and used huge amounts of energy. When people come to see the piece they say 'Oh my God - how do you do that?', but what's critical is not to allow the technology to dominate at the expense of what you're trying to say."
Newson is already thinking about the next show, which he thinks will be a radical departure, tackling some of the issues that are threatening to become no-go areas in British debate.
"Recently I've tried to talk about issues of race and extreme religion, but people are so frightened now of saying the wrong thing, they avoid it altogether in case they're accused of being racists or homophobes.
"The Arts Council are promoting ethnicity at the moment. They talk about diversity but it's not actual diversity, it's black and Asian. I say absolutely everyone should have access, but it's not only to do with colour but with economics and class as well. I find it interesting that there are all kind of things that you can say and things you can't say."
* DV8 presents Just for Show at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry from tomorrow until Saturday (Box office: 024 7652 4524).